DES MOINES, Iowa – Nick Zeisloft, Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams and Tom Crean took the podium on Wednesday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena in advance of Indiana’s NCAA tournament opener against Chattanooga on Thursday.
Watch the full press conference below:
Quotes are available after the jump.
THE MODERATOR: We would like to welcome the student-athletes of Indiana, Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams and Nick Zeisloft. Questions for our student-athletes?
Q. Yogi, have you taken time to think about the long road you’ve traveled and what this last run really means to you personally?
YOGI FERRELL: Yeah, yeah, I have. I feel like I’ve came a long way since my freshman year, and I’ve had a wonderful time at IU playing under Coach Crean. He’s taught me a lot of different things, met a lot of great people. But I feel like this last year has been very special to me. It’s definitely been one of my most fun years at IU. So I would say this last push that we have coming up here, playing in the NCAA Tournament, just grateful to be here.
Q. Yogi, curious to get your thoughts on the city. Have you guys had a chance to get out and look at the city and your impressions? Obviously this is the first time the city has hosted something of this magnitude and also the thought on having Kentucky, Kansas, UConn, you guys here, that’s 20 national titles all in one spot.
YOGI FERRELL: We haven’t got out much really. It’s a business trip, so no time for fun and games right now. We’re in a very, very great bracket with a lot of great teams, a lot of history in it. So that’s just what makes the tournament so special is that you are playing high-level teams every single night.
Q. Yogi or any of the players, you’ve not faced a lot of full court pressure, it’s not a thing you see from a lot of Big Ten teams. What are the keys for you against Chattanooga’s press tomorrow?
YOGI FERRELL: The key to that press is you can’t be timid. They’re a great team when they press. They’re definitely one of the longer teams we have played all year, haven’t played a Big Ten team as long as them, just across the board. So with that press you’ve got to make great passes, pass fakes, but you can’t be timid, make sure of your passes because their press is pretty good.
NICK ZEISLOFT: I think Yogi hit it on the dot. They’re a long team. We’ve gotta attack them in terms of that because their length can be very pesky out there. Don’t be timid and attack it with the ball and the pass.
THE MODERATOR: Troy?
TROY WILLIAMS: They both answered it.
Q. Nick, I saw you play early in your career at Illinois State. Can you elaborate on your journey to get here as well as a player playing at this stage?
NICK ZEISLOFT: It’s been a long journey, long process and just sticking with the process every day has got me to this point and it’s got all of my teammates to this point as well. We’ve been training for this all of our lives and as long as we put in every day in the best we can, we’re prepared for the next day. Just as long as we stick with each other and the coaches that is really what I’ve been doing my whole career and that’s what we’ve been doing here as a team here at IU, so that’s been the key to success.
Q. After the rough start at Maui and Blackmon’s injury to then winning the conference in the regular season. Can you all speak to a moment in which you came together as a team, saw the team rally together and recognize what needed to happen for success?
TROY WILLIAMS: I mean as a team we’ve always been together. I think those moments that happened in Maui and things brought us closer. Since the summer we first came together we always rallied with each other and those moments just made us closer and made us more together and put us more into the same mentality. It opened our eyes, really, with the success we have been having so far since those moments it brought us even closer.
NICK ZEISLOFT: Like Troy said it wasn’t one specific moment it was a bunch of moments together as a team that really got us as close as we are now. You know, there’s tough times that brought us all closer together and that’s what happened.
YOGI FERRELL: In my opinion, when I saw we came together it was kind of like what Troy said, in Maui after we lost to UNLV we watched film just as a team and since then I feel like we’re basically a player-driven program. We hold guys accountability. We’re out on the court critiquing each other, complementing each other, and that’s when we’re at our best when we are listening to our teammates and listening to what they have to say because it helps our teammates and it helps the game as well.
Q. Yogi, you’ve been in the tournament two other times. What have you imparted to your teammates and what have you learned from those two other tournament experiences that either you apply successfully from before or you avoid from other tournaments that weren’t as successful?
YOGI FERRELL: Yeah, well, you know playing out there, you know, I just told these guys just to play free. You can’t play with any jitter bugs, you’ve got to go out there and play the game just like it’s any other game. Our coaches say the game is imperfect, so people are going to turn the ball over and you gotta get on to the next play.
In order to have success everything has got to be clicking, offense, defense, rebounding, knock down free throws, and when everything is clicking on all cylinders, you can go deep into the tournament.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Indiana head coach Tom Crean. Opening statement?
TOM CREAN: Thank you. We are excited to be here, anxious to get into the arena, never been there, awesome state. We know that from playing Iowa all these years and looking forward to the environment we’ll have here. We’re excited to be here. We’ve had a good, solid week of getting better, and we also made sure we had some time off from playing live. But it’s been a very good week for making ourselves better and really locking in to Chattanooga and we’re aware of them, certainly, from having some like opponents, and we have seen them on film. But when you really dive into them in preparation for knowing that you’re going to play them you get he a whole other level of respect with them.
They have a true depth, and your depth is only as good as your consistency and they’ve got very consistent players. 1 through 5 is obvious, but when they go to the bench there is not a ton of drop-off at all. They’re very long. This is probably — haven’t seen them in person yet, but this is going to be one of the longer teams we will have faced, and you can really see it when they get up into their zone and press full court. But they have an outstanding zone. They can go into and we haven’t seen a team that is that big in the zone the way that they are.
They get very good balanced with their scoring and the concern points are that they don’t put anybody on the court that is not capable of shooting the ball or scoring, and the fact that they have dominated from the foul line throughout conference play and made more free throws than their opponents have attempted, which is a scary thing. Which means they are committed to getting the ball inside, committed to getting the ball off the glass and committed to running the break.
We have learned to have a lot of respect for them in a short period of time. I was always aware of Matt McCall and he certainly has a reputation at Chattanooga, you can see that. And we’re looking forward to the game. We’ve had a chance to really dive in and now we’re anxious to see how we do tomorrow.
Q. Coach, you mentioned on Sunday after you learned that you were a 5 seed that you brought down the Big Ten trophy to your team room to show it to your players and remind them of that. How would you say they have responded to your message?
TOM CREAN: First and foremost, we had the trophy there and it wasn’t like I brought it out afterwards. That was over and done with that night. Not the trophy, it’s still there. But once we got into preparing for Chattanooga, what I like with this team once we got together on Monday, they were very well versed on Chattanooga, not just Nick and Yogi and Max, but guys had already gotten into the film, be it Sunday night and Monday morning.
They were already answering questions and posing questions in the film room because we didn’t do a live practice on Monday or Sunday, but we did a ton of walk through and so they had a lot of it down and I was excited about that. The way they have been all year is they have been focused on the game. They have been focused on what is next and the game. They have never spent much time looking behind. This is a team that has never jumped out ahead and start looking down the road and this was a great example of it again the other day. They’ve totally stayed immersed in what their next opponent was and they have stayed immersed in getting better.
Q. Tom, you answered most of my next question there, but given the amount of people that want to talk about what the next game could be you’ve praised this team for its ability to lock in, how important will that be for the next 48 hours here?
TOM CREAN: The fact of the matter is if we don’t play an outstanding game there is no next game for us, and it’s not just because it’s one and done, it’s not just because it’s March Madness, it’s because Chattanooga is really good.
Again, I don’t have concerns with that. Even when we got beat at Penn State, it wasn’t because we were overlooking Penn State to get ready for Iowa, we just didn’t play as well. We’re going to have to keep them off the foul line. There is no question we’re going to have to see the potential of more pressure than maybe we have seen from many teams in the Big Ten and I likened it to Iowa on Sunday night before we really dove in, but they’re so big at the top of the zone that you’ve really got to work at that.
There has been no time to really think much about — they’re all aware of who is in the bracket. Our coaches will work ahead. I haven’t and we certainly haven’t done any preparation for another game inside of the preparation that we have done to this.
Q. Just curious to get your thoughts on Des Moines. Obviously this is the first time the city has hosted something on this scale, they have hosted wrestling and women’s volleyball before, but for a first-time host to get four blue bloods of college basketball, curious about what you think of that and what you may know about the city?
TOM CREAN: I’m well aware of Iowa. I haven’t spent much time here. I have friendships in this area, but I love this state. I have recruited in the state and competed in the state and this is no different. When you pull up to the arena today, we practiced at Drake, which is a nice spot to be, one of my former players is a coach over there, Todd Townsend. So when we are pulling up and you see all the people on a Wednesday afternoon that are coming in and out of the building for practice, that’s cool, that really is.
Again, I will be able to answer that question after get better after getting out into the arena, but outside of losing some games in Iowa, I haven’t had too many bad trip to the state of Iowa.
Q. Coach, can you update us on Robert Johnson’s ankle, is it he cleared to go? And Juwan Morgan and Collin Hartman as well?
TOM CREAN: Everybody has been available this week. Robert is doing more, I would say right now he is definitely probable as long as things continue to move in the direction that they’re moving right now. His first time doing anything full court nature was yesterday. We didn’t even do anything with him. We worked him out Monday, but it was more of a half court situation.
But he’s been making progress. He made progress last week. Even if we had gone all the way last weekend, I don’t think he would have been able to do that. He’s made a lot of progress, so I think he’s probable. Juwan has practiced all week and Collin certainly has some lingering affects from falling the other day, but he’s been available to us as well.
Q. Coach, you mentioned a lot of times Sunday and Monday about their free throw shooting and their ability to get to the line. As you watch the film were there areas in particular that helped them get to the line? Was it just their size or are there situations that concern you more than others in terms of your team fouling them?
TOM CREAN: No, they’ve got really good balance. They’re a big team and they’re not just big on a couple of guys, their four’s and threes and two’s. They’re big guys. I read in the KenPom rankings that they are the 17th most experienced team in the country. He’s done a great job of taking somebody else’s guys that were successful and making them better to make them ultra successful and I think that’s a great sign of the way the program was left for him and what he’s done with it.
To me, they post up. They drive the ball, do a great job of dropping the ball off to the baseline if they’re not in a post-up. So you’ve got to be active. We’ve got to have great hands in this game, not just hands on bodies, but we have to have great activity with our hands and feet because they move the ball well. They catch people in rotation a lot and they drive and may get bumped on the perimeter or drop it off or get it inside.
But to me so much of it is going to start with transition defense and not letting them get easy baskets on drives or follow-ups, and it’s going to get to the defensive rebound because they do get fouled numerous times on put-backs.
We’ve got to be really, really vigilant in how we’re pressuring the ball or what we’re doing in the post. We can’t put our hands in and slap down. We can’t be in a situation where we’re putting hands on the body because it’s obvious it’s going to get called tighter now as we get into this time of year and we’ve got to be able to adjust to that accordingly.
Q. Coach, you mentioned how well versed the players were on the film just a day later. Yogi Ferrell mentioned this being like a player-driven program?
TOM CREAN: Sure.
Q. Has that been a process with this team, something you noticed it had that potential?
TOM CREAN: No, it’s a process. I do think you see the potential because you want to see it in every team. The best teams are player driven; they really are. The coach creates the atmosphere and lays out the plan and it’s the players that carry it out, and it sounds corny but it’s absolutely true because there is so much conversation that goes on between the players that can have an impact on and off the court. That’s the bottom line.
Yogi has done a good job of that, Nick and Max have done a good job of that. Collin has grown into that and Troy has grown into it this year. So all of the sudden the younger players, you know, who are smart and work hard and spend a lot of time at it, they’re all ears when they’re learning from their teammates, so there is a great — you know, we have a really good connection. When we are connected on the defensive end, we’re really good. When we’re moving without the ball quick and with the ball quickly and frequently on the offensive end we’re good there.
A coach can talk all they want, but that comes because the players are absolutely connected but, again, you’ve got to crate the atmosphere as a coach and as a staff but, it’s the players that carry that out. And the greatest complement a coach can get in my mind is for people to see a player-driven program, and when you see that now you know the leadership has taken the reigns and are making it happen for each other.
Q. Tom, seems like they’re a little bit more dangerous as a pressing team because they have the 6-10 shot blocker in the back can you speak to how that helps a pressing team?
TOM CREAN: We’ve played against other shot-blocking teams before. So what you do is say they run this offense like Nebraska or they make it hard for you to get the ball here like Iowa does or they block shots like Purdue does, right, so you try to give them a base of reference, different players, different style, the whole deal, but you try to give them something different.
A year ago we made a lot of mistakes trying to block Purdue. They blocked 15 of our shots. This year I think they blocked one of two. You can’t challenge shot blockers. You’ve got to get around them, make the next pass, pull them out of their lane, and their zone allows that to happen because they get so big at the top of the 1-3-1 zone.
So to me if we go in there and try to challenge these guys, that’s not good, if we try to score on them and try and make two, three, four dribbles with two moves that’s ridiculous. We were too slow in the post. We were far too slow in the post. We didn’t go quickly and we fully anticipate getting doubled, Thomas especially getting doubled by Chattanooga.
So the bottom line is can we get it in, can we get it up or get it in and out quickly and make the game keep moving. The last thing we want to do is tern this game into a slow down isolation game where their rotations can come over and create the block shot off the ball.
Again, the more the ball is moving, no matter what defense it is, we’ve got to keep moving the ball and moving without the ball. If it gets slow when we start trying to play in a static area, we start trying to play in this spot or that spot, that’s when we’re not so good, that’s not when we’ve been so successful, that’s what a shot-blocking team wants so we need to make sure we don’t allow that to happen.
Q. Coach, I know that you’re focused on tomorrow but I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about our state’s top prospect and how excited you were to see him win a second title, De’Ron Davis and how excited you are to finally get him out?
TOM CREAN: I was definitely excited. I was nervous when he got that third foul. But we all had it on. That’s the power of DIRECTV. It was great. I got to be out there a little over a month ago to see him play in person and I’m proud of him.
I mean, that’s what you want to recruit. You want to recruit pure winners. He is. He is a pure winner and he has been in the spotlight in Colorado for a long time. We offered him a scholarship when he was going into the ninth grade. I love his upside. He’s got talent, great spirit. He’s got tremendous loyalty, tremendous loyalty, and that’s the kind of thing I’m looking for.
Thomas Bryant is like that, when you feel that connection with somebody before they ever get to your campus, it makes it that much better when they get there. His game will expand. Danny did a great job with him. That entire group, the Hawks did a great job with him and it will be fun to have him because he’s going to get nothing but better. And it’s a lot like Thomas Bryant. He’s a very undervalued shooter. He can play in the post, rebound, block shots, run the floor. He’s a very, very undervalued shooter, and I think that’s where he’s going to make some real strides.